Foreign tourists come to Moscow to see the Kremlin, the Tretyakov Gallery and now also the Russian musical Nord-Ost. Its premiere took place in October 2001 and it remains the only theatre performance in Russia that has been staged daily for so many months. It is possible to say without any exaggeration that Nord-Ost has become a world cultural event. The fact that the libretto, translated into nine languages, is on sale in the foyer of the theatre speaks for itself. Visitors from abroad consider this performance to be the real Russian miracle that every foreigner com-ing to our mysterious land is dreaming to encounter. Russian spectators in turn are impressed by the unprecedented quality of the show and also by the bravery and purposeful ness of our com-patriots who managed to realize what all around believed impossible.

The authors of the musical, Alexey Ivashchenko and Georgy Vasilyev, not only selected the plot, but also wrote the libretto and music to this performance. Even production wasn't off-limits hen'! The word "author" took on a much broader sense than it does usually.

The task was a daunting one: to stage Nord-Ost meant creating a whole new type of theatre in Moscow famous though it is for its theatrical traditions!   The    authors   of   Nord-Ost   consulted

frequently with the world-famous Cameron Mackintosh Ltd. production company, responsible for the staging of such famous musicals as The Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Les Miserables, and Miss Saigon, so that the Russian production would be up to the level of its world competitors.

Specially for this performance an old theatre building in Moscow was restored and kitted out with all the latest equipment. A new theatrical company was created for the musical. They spent over a year looking for fresh new talent among young actors who would be able to combine a deep psychological actor's performance with  wonderful  singing and  perfect  movements. Additionally, the

play demands children perform on stage. So a children’s theatre studio was established, so that children could play alongside the adult actors on equal grounds. Top musicians formed an orchestra for this project.

The producer had an unbelievably challenging task. For instance, as the main hero of the performance is a pilot, a plane has to be on the stage in some of the scenes. And — would you believe it? A real World War II bomber actually flies in and lands on the stage; its wingspan of 15 meters reaching from one edge of the stage to the other. With a faulty "sneezing" motor bending from one side to another the mighty giant is slowly lowered to the ground. The ethereal entrance of the beautiful silver machine is accompanied by loud music, becoming a solemn mid-air dance.

The musical Nord-Ost is worth seeing just to enjoy this fantastic performance. Though the plane's "dance" is not the only one in the show; everybody dances here! More than that: everybody sings — and without a recorded backing, they are accompanied by a real orchestra. A cast of 27 adult actors and 11 children take part in each performance, constantly changing costumes and performing over 180 different roles.

The action takes place against a constantly changing background, which fills the space behind, above and even under the scene, weighing over six tons. The movement of this bulky scenery is controlled by four autonomous computer systems. Before your very eyes dawn turns to sunset, winter becomes spring; stars shoot across the sky and become polar lights, glimmering above the horizon. The stage instantly changes from a pier into a school, a town square into a flat, an aerodrome into a ministry, from happy pre-war Moscow into besieged Leningrad. The three-hour performance covers about 30 years of Russian history during the first half of the 20th century. Nord-Ost is a journey through time and distance, it is an exciting story about brave people, geographical adventure, exploring the Arctic. And, of course, it's a story about honor, faithfulness and love through the years.

To sum it all up, if you happen to be in Moscow don't lose a great opportunity to see this unique performance. The musical Nord-Ost will, no doubt, be one of your best evenings in the hospitable capital.

 By Darya Morgunova

(“Moscow today and tomorrow” September. 2002)